Veterinary Assistant

Veterinary Assistant

Start a Veterinary Career in One Year 

As a Veterinary Assistant student, you'll prepare for a career working with animals in a variety of settings such as veterinary clinics, boarding kennels, and grooming salons.

You'll study animal diseases and disease prevention, small animal pharmacology, pet grooming, kennel management, animal behavior, nutrition, legal principles, human relations, and communication.

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Paying for your degree may be easier than you think with our financial aid and scholarships. Kirkwood offers more than $3 million in scholarships for students each year!

Graduates of the Veterinary Assistant program will be able to:

  • Explain and demonstrate front office and practice management procedures.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of veterinary ethics and state and federal regulations related to veterinary practice and animal welfare.
  • Recognize the principles and demonstrate the methods of disease control.
  • Demonstrate kennel and animal management, including safe cleaning, disinfection, animal handling and nutrition.
  • Perform therapeutic bathing and basic grooming of dogs and cats.
  • Provide excellent customer service and client education.
  • Provide appropriate assistance in examination and treatment of small animals.
  • Prepare surgical equipment and patients and perform surgical assistance and patient recovery.
  • Perform selected animal nursing, laboratory procedures and diagnostic imaging.
  • Adhere to industry standards and OSHA for safe handling, storage, dispensing and administration of veterinary drugs.

Before acceptance into our program, you'll be required to attend a one-hour program conference where you'll gain more information about our program and ask any questions you may have.

Frequently Asked Questions

Graduates with Veterinary Assistant degrees can obtain jobs in a variety of different career opportunities.

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No. You’ll want to take Pre-Veterinary Medicine course through our Arts and Sciences Division; then transfer to a four-year college or university to receive a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, Animal Science, Physics or Biology. After that, you’ll attend veterinary school and work toward your Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.

Self-motivation; a goal-oriented attitude; an outgoing, friendly personality; and maturity are needed to be successful in this career. Working with a veterinarian on a paid or volunteer basis is also a good idea and will expose you to all aspects of the career –including sights, smells, sounds and issues that may be hard to deal with including euthanasia.

The State of Iowa does not currently license, register or certify veterinary assistants. Prospective students should familiarize themselves with state regulations in the jurisdiction where they intend to become employed.

Program Requirements

  1. Everyone who applies for admission into the Veterinary Assistant program must take the HESI entrance exam. Once you apply for the program, you’ll receive information about scheduling your program conference
  2. Five business days after you complete your program conference, you’ll be able to purchase access to the HESI exam at the Kirkwood Bookstore. The cost for the exam is $44. Cash and debit/credit card payments are accepted. Please note: the exam cost is subject to change. Make sure to keep your receipt because you’ll need it the day of the exam. 
  3. You’ll take the HESI at the Test Center in 2055 Cedar Hall. You’ll need to schedule a time in advance to take the exam. Admission requirements must be met by July 1 of each year. This includes both attempts at the HESI exam.
  4. On the day you’re scheduled to take the exam, you’ll need to bring a valid photo ID (driver’s license or passport), proof of payment (Bookstore receipt), and Elsevier username and password (set that up here).
  5. You can take up to four hours to complete the exam. Students must pass with minimum cut scores prior to being fully accepted into the program. Students are able to make two attempts at the exam. The needed exam scores for both the Veterinary Assistant and Veterinary Technician program are listed below.
  6. Once you complete the exam, whether the required scores were met or not, you should contact Ashley Moeller, associate dean, Ag Sciences, or Holly Feldmann, department coordinator, Ag Sciences, to set up a time to meet via Zoom.
  7. It is suggested that you prepare for this exam in advance. The Kirkwood main campus library has copies of the HESI Admission Assessment Exam Review workbook. The review workbook is also available to order on Amazon (ISBN: 978-0-323-35378-6). Find more HESI study materials.

See the needed exam scores listed below.

Exam Veterinary Technician Veterinary Assistant
English 77 Composite 60 Composite
Grammar 75 40
Reading 75 70
Vocabulary 75 70
Math 80 69
Biology 75 55
Chemistry 73 N/A

Mission Statement

The Veterinary Assistant program provides students with a broad background and excellent entry-level technical skills essential to professional assistants to the animal care industry.


Agricultural Sciences
1000 Washington Hall